Nine Forgotten Fads of the 1990s

The Kris Kross look: Bugs and Taz version

The '90s are officially over, folks, and now that we're in a position where we can look back with a growing sense of (shudder!) nostalgia, many will identify the decade by its more notable fads: the Monica Lewinsky affair, Pulp Fiction, grunge, etc. But what of the fads that didn't take off? The ideas that everybody saw as lame at the outset? Who will remember them in the years to come? Well, I certainly will, and after reading this list, I hope you will too.

  1. Nail polish for men. In 1997, the makeup company Hard Candy developed this oddity. "Candy Man", it was called. It came in "manly" colors such as black, gold, and silver, and was actually intended for heterosexual males. Heterosexual males knew better: Candy Man was DOA. (Fun note: Foreign Correspondents star Wil Wheaton wore Candy Man in his "Where Are They Now?" photo shoot for People magazine in late '97.)
  2. Chastity belts. In 1994, an LA company created these often studded black leather contraptions for rocker-type women to wear on the outside of their jeans. If the company aimed these at the S&M crowd, they might have fared better. But in the '90s, there were only a handful of big-haired metal chicks still around, few of them under 40, and none of them wanting to give the impression of being chaste.
  3. Server-push animation. The World Wide Web was new in 1994-1995, and it was common to use this technology for animation, in which a website's server would load an image, wait a second, then load another image to replace it. Voila: Animation! Unfortunately, the server usually loaded the images faster than site visitors with slow connections could view them. Animated GIFs soon rendered the server push animation obsolete. Then came Flash.
  4. "Magic Eye" pictures, a.k.a "Computer-generated random dot 3D stereograms". You saw them in shopping malls, 1994 calendars, and Sunday comics sections: What appeared at first as a stew of patterned dots would become, if you refocused your eyes and stared hard, a crude three-dimensional shape: a seal with a ball on its nose, say, or the Statue of Liberty. Some people found them fascinating, others couldn't make them work, but in the end, they were just too ugly to last. After all, who would hang an enormous mess of computer garbage above the sofa?
  5. Cigar smoking. This disgusting habit went hand in hand with mid-'90s "cocktail culture" (tiki torches, lounge music) and the swing dancing revival. "Cigar clubs" popped up all over. Young cads even invested in humidors. I guess most of them finally got girlfriends who told them to knock it off. Of course, the same old bastards who smoked cigars long before the '90s continue to puff away.
  6. Pogs and slammers. A calculated attempt at creating an "instant collectable", these useless cardboard discs with pictures on them were actually a hit – for a while – with bored children and deluded gold diggers hoping to one day cash in on their collections. Good luck: In 50 years they will be worth less than the cardboard they were printed on.
  7. The Kris Kross look. Two black children made a name for themselves in the very early '90s with kid-friendly rap. Their gimmick? They wore their clothing backwards! Some youngsters actually imitated this embarrassing look, although most fans settled for wearing baggy T-shirts festooned with Warner Bros. characters Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil – "Bugs and Taz" – in the Kris Kross getups. Another '90s fashion failure: denim overalls, typically with one of the shoulder straps undone.
  8. The MiniDisc. In 1993, they appeared: MiniDiscs! Cute little CDs, some of them recordable! They even had their own players, since you couldn't very well fit them in your normal CD player. What's that? You had to get new players? What's the point, then? That was the question asked by American shoppers; the Japanese, with their fetish for tiny things, loved them. [2013 UPDATE: Incredibly, MiniDisc players continued to be manufactured by Sony until March 2013.]
  9. "I've fallen and I can't get up!" The '90s version of "Where's the beef?"